Interview with Dr Robin Bryden – Part 4/6: The facilitator’s role

March 28, 2011

In this week’s instalment of the EI’s interview with Robin Bryden, Robin explains how the key to successfully implementing the Hearts and Minds toolkit rests with effective facilitators.

“What the Hearts and Minds tools do is give you a structure to identify the problem or better understand the situation, and they provide a structure for people to provide some answers.  All of the Hearts and Minds tools do that in a different way, but targeted to specific activities.  However, for most of the tools you don’t need to directly use the booklet.  Of course the facilitator needs to know the booklet inside out, but when you start doing your activities (workshops, etc.) you mostly just need a pen and something to write on.

Take Managing rule-breaking, for example, where you have the scratch-card questionnaires that you can give people.  The scratch cards are designed to allow people to give feedback anonymously to a supervisor about their following of rules and procedures, however, a facilitator can actually do it slightly differently – they can just ask people the questions.  It really depends on how open you are as an organisation and culture.  If people feel the need to answer in secret, then the anonymity of the questionnaires help, but if people are happy to speak up, then you just need the facilitator to ask the group the questions and probe for answers.

Understanding your culture is another tool where the facilitator has a large role to play in probing for answers.  Generally, people are often fairly optimistic when they do the Understanding your culture exercise – the initial rating is often way too high.  But then in the workshop, when questioned, they start to realise that they’re not as good as they thought they were, and that’s the start of the light bulb going on.  Initially they generally rate themselves as way too strong in culture, and it is often only when you engage the participants and challenge them on their answers that you get a more accurate indicator of their safety culture level.

For example, during an Understanding your culture exercise, a conversation I often have happens when leaders assess themselves as reactive.  I’ll ask: “so what are you going to do to get out of being reactive?” and they’ll tell me a reactive action, such as “I’m going to get out there and catch people working unsafely”. 

“So you think that’s going to move you up to generative do you?”

“Um, no”

“So where will that move you to?”

“That would move me to… reactive!”  

You can see their face change as they see they’re actually a couple of levels down from where they thought they were and where they thought they’d be with the remedying actions they had proposed. 

I’ve used this tool both quantitatively (with everybody completing questionnaires and counting up their scores) and qualitatively (everyone discussing openly in a workshop), and I came to the same answer for which cultural level the company was at and where the problems are for both methods.  In some ways, because I was able to facilitate the discussion, I think I might have got a better answer when I used it qualitatively.  You can’t always take the first answers people give to the Understanding your culture questions – what usually happens is someone gives the ‘politically correct’ answer (i.e. what they think I want to hear), and then someone (either myself, or someone else in the room) will challenge them on that and then they’ll change their minds, and as the conversation evolves you’ll get more and more answers – truer answers, bought out by the facilitator.”

To read part 3 of this interview, click here.


Interview with Dr Robin Bryden – Part 3/6: Using consultants – Holding hands when learning to walk

March 3, 2011

Continuing on from last month’s post, Dr Robin Bryden explains how to maximise the input of consultants when using Hearts and Minds and discusses how consultants can provide advantageous support when starting to use the toolkit:

“Hearts and Minds is designed to be used without the need to use consultants.  You can use Hearts and Minds by just using your own people from the beginning, by giving them the space and time to think about the Hearts and Minds material and how best to adapt them.  However, external consultants bring resources and knowledge, and the right consultant can be very useful. 

If you get a consultant in to get you started off, they can act as a guide to help you get ‘walking’, but you also need to build your own capacity internally in order to make your programme sustainable – you should be able to rely less and less on the consultant.  If you don’t want to or can’t use a consultant to begin with, then that is fine, but you need confidence and time to plan and learn how to use the tools; but sometimes it’s easier to have someone holding your hand.  It’s the difference between learning to walk yourself and having someone hold your hand.  Interestingly, my daughter refused – refused! – to hold my hand when she was learning to walk.

At Sakhalin Energy, the Driving for Excellence training was a course delivered by an external company.  We agreed with them beforehand what the content should be, and we gave them all our Hearts and Minds materials (bought from the Energy Institute), but they took it and collated it in their own way.  However, for our Understanding your Culture workshops, we just use the tools as provided by the EI and they are delivered internally with no consultant help. 

There’s a split between how external consultants will use the tools, and how what I like to call ‘internal consultants’ (people who work for the company rolling out the project) will use them.  So, if I was an internal consultant (so this is my company), I will know my company, what the strengths are, where the gaps are, and collect data around where those gaps are (using audit reports, safety cases, etc.) to sell to my internal stakeholders (managers and staff), to help them see what the problem is and build a collective case for change.  And depending on what the problems are, I would dive straight into those tools that best address that problem… and I’d just get on with it. 

However, if I was an external consultant coming from outside the company and trying to help a company diagnose what their problem is, I might start with Understanding Your Culture and the SAFE appraisal system.  I would use SAFE with senior managers and run a workshop with them based on the feedback they receive, and I would also use Understanding Your Culture with a number of other groups to find out what issues there are.  I’d then bring all that information together and run another Understanding Your Culture workshop with the senior managers.  I’d give them their SAFE results, give them some feedback from the workforce via the first Understanding Your Culture exercise, and give them additional information based on audits, incidents, to help them see their current reality, and off the back of that focus in on some more specific areas.  All this is mainly to discover where the problems are, and importantly to convince Senior Management and other stakeholders that there is a problem that needs fixing.  Afterwards comes the part of actually fixing it.”